The Fun Hard Equation

24 Mar

Like countless millions, my very first World of Warcraft character was a night elf hunter.  Okay – get it out of your system, roll your eyes, shake your head and laugh.  Better?  Good – now try to follow along, this is going to be confusing.

I rolled that first Nelf because they fit my personal view of how a heroic character was supposed to look.  Tall, broad shoulders, epic eyebrows and ears that you could launch a space telescope with.  Throw in that highspeed flip-roll thing they can do and I was sold.  The fact that hunters were amazingly cool and in simple solo situations, easy to succeed at only made things better.

As you might expect, I *stunk* as a hunter.  For the longest time I didn’t know how to train my pet with new skills and traps were a button that I just didn’t push.  In groups I didn’t know to turn growl off and didn’t understand why anyone would put their pet on passive when doing anything.  I was a classic huntard, the guy that gave good hunters bad names.  

Over time and with the help of some good teachers I managed to get better.  Not just as a hunter but as a player in general.  I started figuring out the finer parts of the game mechanics, I watched videos to learn instances and I practiced.  My alt obsession kicked in as well and my original hunter was set aside to make way for a host of rogues, druids, warriors and one abused shaman.

One thing that I learned from the trolls in the official WOW forums was that all of the classes I enjoyed were EZ-mode noobcycles that only stupid fat kids wanted to play.  Now, I’m smart enough to add a grain of salt to anything that comes out of Blizzard’s official sewer, but there was a glimmer of what smelled like truth in there that I just couldn’t shake.

I loved playing an arms warrior – loved playing my feral druid – loved my hunter.  But according to anyone you cared to listen to in the wisdom laced environs of [Trade] and [Barrens Chat] the only real classes were the hard ones.  If you weren’t tanking bosses or healing raids you were just a pretender.  A necessary evil that could be replaced on a whim while the big kids went off to kill Rag or farm ZG for the Tiger mount.

I bought into that for a long time.  I couldn’t help it.  Part of it had to do with my predisposition for wanting to do something hard – something important – even if it was in a game.  So as I fought my alt addiction I gravitated to roles such as tanking and pvp healing.  Two of the most potentially miserable jobs you could do back in the vanilla WOW days.  

But I think I might finally be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  A couple of nights ago I rolled Tigerclaw into Heroic Halls of Stone with two guildies and a pair of patient pugger dps.  I had never been to HOS before much less tanked it, but my healer was an old hand with the place and had grown up in BC as a tank so he did a great job of walking me through.

My tank instincts are fairly good – I know when, where and what to pull (most times) – I know my aggro radius and when I can fight the urge to button mash during fights I can get a weak group through a hard heroic with a minimum of repair bill.  I’m not a great tank – but I’m a good tank and I can get it done.

Then I hit the Bran Bronzebeard Event.  Anyone that has ever done this quest on heroic knows what it can be like for an unprepared tank.  For those that haven’t – here’s a quick summary.  Bran Bronzebeard – an NPC you run into while exploring Halls of Stone – is trying to recover forgotten knowledge about his people and the history of Azeroth.  To do this he attempts to “hack” a computer like device he’s discovered deep inside the halls.  Things go pear-shaped in a hurry though and he sets off the anti intruder system.  What follows is a 4-5 minute long endurance fight full of waves of bad guys, lasers (yes – lasers) and no time to rest.

The mix of melee to caster mobs starts getting more challenging as does the pace that they rush the control room you’re in.  Honestly – this doesn’t do the event justice.  The length of the fight truly makes it epic with virtually no downtime for healers to drink or the tank to get his bearings.  The frenetic pace goes on for like this for what seems an eternity.  If too many mobs get through to Bran they’ll kill him before he can figure the system out.  If the tank tries to pull too far in or out of the entryway – he’ll lose the next wave and panic will ensue.  If he manages his rage poorly he’ll lose aggro to all of the AOE going on – etc – etc – etc.  It’s a very good test of a tanks flexability and survivability – and I wasn’t prepared.

We wiped – a lot.  

It wasn’t all my fault – but to a tank or a healer – every death feels like it is.  To add insult to enjury, each time we tried, we ended up just seconds away from Bran turning the security system off.  So close – so many times.  Repair costs were skyrocketing – tempers were getting short.  One of the dps recommended grabbing a tank he knew that could get them through the event “no problem”.  That burned.  Biting back the urge tell him how I *really* felt – I simply asked for him to get his tank to loan me an extra 2000 health.  He laughed and suggested we try again.

“We’ll get this,” he said.  And we did.  The next pull we burned them down and burned them down.  I had figured out the “sweet spot” on the entry ramp and was managing to wrap up each successive wave neatly.  I would thunderclap and shockwave and demo shout and they would stay glued to me.  Now and then one might break free, but the Death Knight that was running with us would tow it back to me and I’d gather it back up while our Pally healed and the rest of our dps did their thing.  But it was looking like it was going to all be for naught again.  Tigerclaw is defense capped – she’s got solid gear and can build rage decently – but at 22,0000 health unbuffed she was still a bit squishy.  With the mobs not getting burned down fast enough and with each wave bringing more and more mobs and even big stone constructs, our Nax equipped healer just wasn’t able to keep up.  Tiger went down.  The DK picked up next but he dropped in seconds and our rogue was already dead thanks to an earlier engagement with the lasers.  The mage that had offered to find us a different tank died next, but not before he frost nova’d the mob as it raced to squash Bran Bronzebeard.  The second or two that frost nova gave us was enough for our healer to heal himself and throw down a concecrate – the mobs turned on him.

And the event ended.  Bran chortles as he finally manages to disengage the security system, the mobs disapear and we were done.

We finished things up, killed the final boss and went on our merry way.  But I was cooked.  I had a quick after action with my healer so that we could work out the kinks of my performance.  After that, I promptly logged off for the night.  I didn’t log back in to Tiger’ for two days.

So –  you might be wondering where this is all going and what it has to do with hunters and the whole work – play – fun equation?  I said this would be confusing – stay buckled in.  So during my enforced hiatus from Tiger’ – I went back to Rainchaser.  She has been sitting at 71 for a while and I had been itching to play her.  A day of relaxed grinding to level my wolf (and an exalted status with the Mag’har) and I was back in Northrend, happily questing and crafting.  It was relaxing – but nothing any different than I felt while solo adventuring with Tiger’.  The difference came though, when I put Rain’ in the LFG queue to start running the normal 5-mans.  The action was completely angst free.  I wasn’t worried about my gear – wasn’t worried about whether I knew the pulls or even what direction to go.  I wasn’t stressed in any way.  After a run through Nexus with a decent group I was able to spend some time working on my shot rotations and macros and start to really hone how my pet and I worked together.  A few minutes later I was snatched up and whisked off to UK for a run that was suspiciously devoid of a real tank.

Gah.  All that plate – two death knights and two pallies – but no tank.  The lowest level blood DK offered to *try* to tank and we piled in.  Things went fairly well right up until we started nearing the first boss.  Working our way through the proto-drake handlers and their scaly charges, the “tank” started dropping.  What followed was a quick panic where each successive plate wearer tried to pick up the mobs and got pummeled.  I turned growl back on for Windpaw and sent him nipping at the mobs to get them off the healer and together we started an entertaining dance  back and forth across my hasty frost trap.  We lived.  This happened again when we cleared the mobs around Prince Kes’ – the “tanks” dropped and Wind’ and I managed to keep our healer from getting snuffed.  Rain’ scratched Windpaw’s neck and settled down to drink while waiting for the rest of the party to rez or run back.  

“Really, really nice work, Rainchaser,” said one of the Paladins in voice chat.  It felt good.

Our blood tank dropped after that.  No excuse, no warning – just dropped party and logged out.  I know how he must have felt.  Tanking is stressful.  Our pally healer dropped as well figuring the group would fall apart.  Rain’ found herself as group leader after that and I dug around in LFG, finding a resto druid and a level 69 prot pally that felt he could tank the instance.  With tanks being in short supply I grabbed him up and eyeballed his gear.  It was horrible.  He was a tank by nature of spec and shield only.  Rainchaser had more health.

“I just respecced from ret,” he said apologetically.  On we went.

Now the rest of the instance went much better.  Our dps knew to give him a moment to build some aggro and the druid knew his business with the heals.  Prince Keseleth dropped.  On we went.  The next two bosses are more challenging – needing to be killed at basically the same time.  After explaining the fights dynamics we dropped them nearly perfectly.  The tank died right at the end but between Windpaw and one of the hardier DK’s we avoided a wipe.

I knew Ingvar was going to be a problem.  When we finally rolled up on the big dude we had buffed the little prot pally tank as much as we could and filled his head with the fight mechanics.  I fully expected Ingvar to mop the floor with us.  He almost did.  Our tank died right as Ingvar’s flesh body was killed.  With only 4 to face his undead form everyone that was left pulled out every stop.  We were blowing cool downs and dancing like mad.  With each plate wearer stepping up to tank and dying in turn it came down to the druid and Rain’ pillar humping Ingvar around the circle.  I threw on “lick your wounds” when Wind’ got low on health and managed to bandage for a second.  The druid accidentally ran into Ingvar’s spinning axe and it was down to Rain’ and her increasingly annoyed dog.  I kited and bounced aggro by turning growl on and off.  Ingvar was down to 4%.  With Windpaw hot on the bosses heels, Rain pumped out shots as fast as she could.  3% – 2% – the spinning axe flew again.  I hit disengage and deterrence to get away and watched as Ingvar dropped and the Utgarde Keep achievement flashed across the screen.

The howls of approval in chat were immensely gratifying.

Much of yesterday I thought about how different I felt playing as a hunter.  How gratifying the experience consistently is.  I compared that to the angst that I’m often faced with when tanking and was reminded of something Klinderas said about “hunters being fun and all other classes not being fun – and thus truly being work”.  I see where he was going with that. 

There’s a natural predisposition for many of us to gravitate toward things that aren’t good for us.  Bad relationships, bad jobs, too much chocolate in our peanut butter.  For me – it has been trying to make too much of my real life fit into the fun I’m trying to have in my virtual life.  Why? I have a ton of responsibility in my military job.  It’s stressful enough.  So why bring it in game?  Why tank?  Why do something that feels like work?  Part of it is because I do get satisfaction from tanking.  Tiger’ picked up and helped tank Obsidian Sanctum the other night.  OS is pretty straight forward for an off-tank and with our guild leader frost DK maintank calling the shots I was able to sit back, take direction and execute.  I had a great time.  No one died.

But back to Rain’ I went.  She’s a bubble away from 74, a pair of Savage Cobalt Slicers with agility enchants are waiting in the bank for her as are the first of many Dalaran Cooking Dailies.  I’m excited about seeing the rest of Northrend as a hunter.  Excited about doing it with Windpaw padding along at my side.  After a long time I think I’ve come to some kind of agreement with myself about what is fun and what is work and where it matters.  Tigerclaw is still my girl – she’s been around longest and I’ll hold on to her to tank anything my guildies might need.  But my joy is my hunter and whether it’s virtual life or real life – you should seek that joy wherever you find it.  That which you truly love should be your focus in game and in life as you’ll undoubtedly be better at it and more successful in the long run.   It’s not always the easiest path though.  Hard doesn’t equal Good.  Don’t let that uber-d00d in Goldshire tell  you otherwise either.

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5 Responses to “The Fun Hard Equation”

  1. Maebius March 24, 2009 at 17:55 #

    I would be remiss to not let you know I ..um…. got a little but of dust in my eye, yeah. dust… when I read about your hunter-tanking. I’ve done that twice, unintentionally, and those two moments stand out as the the best times my little lvl 72 Troll has ever had. It’s just a game, but so much more. 🙂 Kudos on the accomplishemnt!

  2. llanion March 24, 2009 at 18:13 #

    Barrens chat. /shudder

    I’ve gotten to the point where (aside from a firmly-rooted belief that Death Knights really ARE ez-mode), I don’t assume one class is any easier than another. I had an easy time of it levelling my druid and my priest, but stalled out on my hunter… it’s all relative to the player.

  3. Chawa March 24, 2009 at 18:30 #

    I am envious of your mad skillz! And hope to be as good one day! /cheer!

  4. Capn John March 25, 2009 at 20:17 #

    During that last 5% of the Ingvar fight, you just know the other four members of your group were staring spell bound at their screens watching you work your Hunter magic.

    They were either sitting there motionless, not daring to move, probably even holding their breath out of fear of the Butterfly Effect, that regardless of the physical distance between you them doing something even as subtle as breathing might somehow distract you from the task at hand.

    Or…

    they were screaming at their monitor and cheering for you while their Significant Other looked on and said, “But…aren’t you dead? What are you so excited about?”

    And they screamed in reply, “Look at that Hunter!!! She’s magic!!! She’s the Michael Jordan of Hunters!!! She’s soloing Ingvar!!!”

    I really miss my Hunter, but I really think I’m finished with WoW (except for the occasional 10-day Trial 😉

  5. Klinderas March 26, 2009 at 13:23 #

    Hunters are the bomb, no more needs to be said.

    For some people, they love tanking and healing. I can understand that, but my love is for DPS and utility and for the heroic saves we can do. I love the rush I get when it’s all down to me, not the stress of it’s all on me. The only cost of which is being labeled a huntard.

    /shrug

    I’m enjoying the game, so I win. End of story.

    /flourish

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